Metals occur naturally in the environment and can be found in many food sources. Most of these metals pose no threat to health, but heavy and dense metals are associated with different illnesses in children and adults. These metals often find their way into food products during processing. The main heavy metals in food are lead. Arsenic, mercury, and cadmium. FDA requires all food products to undergo thorough testing to ensure they are free of these metals. Let’s delve deeper into this topic.
Reasons Heavy Metals are a Concern
Heavy metals can negatively impact adults and children. While most food companies monitor the levels of the heavy metals in food and drinking water, some sources fall through the cracks. Some metal levels may be low in some foods, but cumulative consumption can have adverse effects. For instance, mercury is a huge concern for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. They can pass on the heavy metals to their babies, impairing their normal brain development.
When humans are continually exposed to metals, like lead, they store it within their bone materials. The metal also causes cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and lower IQ in children. Inorganic arsenic and cadmium also have neurological impacts due to accumulated exposure.
Is Heavy Metal Testing a Requirement?
Food manufacturers and producers often monitor arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and lead due to their toxicity. These metals can end up in food products for several reasons, and that’s why heavy metal testing is the best way to ensure your products are within normal ranges and meet regulatory requirements.
FDA identifies heavy metals in food as a chemical hazard. They expect manufacturers to evaluate them as part of their food safety plans. They are present in raw agricultural commodities or may find their way through equipment, containers, and everything used during the processing process. Assessing the known and foreseeable hazards present in food helps manufacturers establish preventive controls that protect the food they present to the consumers.
Choosing a Food Safety Testing Laboratory
As a food manufacturer, you know it’s your responsibility to produce safe and compliant products for consumers. However, proper food safety involves a great deal of scientific knowledge and understanding. Failure to properly manage food safety could have severe impacts, such as jeopardizing consumers’ health and your business’s reputation.
One of the best things to protect your business and consumers is to collaborate with external laboratories for food safety testing. You should choose a laboratory you can rely on to provide accurate and timely results for your products. The lab should have everything required to test heavy metals in food and give reliable results. Some of the things you should consider when choosing a food safety lab include:
You should only partner with a lab that’s ISO17025 accredited. You should dig deeper into the company’s accreditation to ensure it’s accredited for its entire portfolio. This way, rest assured that the lab uses proven methods and matrices for food safety testing.
A good food safety lab should be staffed with highly trained and qualified professionals. The technicians should also have at least five years of experience. It means that they are well-versed with different heavy metal testing procedures. They also have the expertise to troubleshoot any issues and tailor the best solutions for accurate results. Besides reliable results, the laboratory technicians should also provide interpretation of data in a way you understand best. They can also recommend additional testing to guarantee the safety of your products.
You may have everything to prevent a crisis, but you need to be well prepared because issues arise when least expected. A reliable food safety lab partner is one of the best things you can have during a crisis. The laboratory should be ready to provide the support you might need and ensure it’s available to you within the shortest time possible. It gives you optimal peace of mind even when a crisis strikes.
Proficiency Test Program
ISO accreditation is vital, but it’s also vital to ensure that your laboratory partner participates in a proficiency test program. Most lab results can prove that heavy metals in food ingredients are non-detectable. However, if the analytical procedures lacked adequate precision, the results might only mask a potential problem. It could lead to difficult situations when FDA runs tests using another lab and finds the heavy metals in your product.
To avoid inconveniences and disruption to your market, you should choose a food safety lab that uses a proficiency test program. A good laboratory uses inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry with a sensitivity similar to the FDA’s analytical method. It can help you understand the heavy metals present in your products at levels of concern. In addition, you should ensure that the lab’s methods are fit for your needs.
Open Door Policy
You invest a lot of effort, time, and resources into your products. Therefore, you should know who you’re partnering with to test the safety of your foods. A good laboratory should be open to an audit by your company. You can tour the facility to assess how they will process your samples. It will also help you assess how friendly the team is and how well they can address your concerns. During your audit, the team should help you understand the policies surrounding your information. This is especially on their policy on securing and sharing information. After all, confidentiality is of the utmost importance.
A food safety lab should treat your samples with urgency and process them within the scheduled time frame. The technicians should honor the quoted dates and give you the results on time to meet your business needs.
Metals may occur naturally in foods, but they can also find their way into the products during the manufacturing process. Heavy metals in food pose adverse health risks to children and adults, so you should take the necessary measures to ensure your products comply with the local/global requirements. It’s important to partner with a reputable third-party food safety lab for efficient and reliable results. With this effort, you’ll have confidence when labeling your products to inform consumers about the ingredients. It also helps to protect your company’s name.